About Today’s Florida Keys

Getting to the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are buffered from the Florida mainland by what locals call “the stretch,” 18-miles of two-lane highway with two 1-mile-long passing zones.  “The stretch” is guarded at the top by The Last Chance Saloon,” by its name declaring the last chance to get a drink for the next 18 miles, most likely the longest dry length of highway between the mainland and Southern Most Point in Key West, a deprogramming stop many of us use when returning home after being away or “off the rock.”  It is guarded at the bottom by Gilbert’s Resort, a marina, motel and one of the largest tiki huts in the Keys, a mega-weekend gathering place, popular with singles and families, positioned at the foot of the Jewfish Creek Bridge.  Don’t slow down, but at the peak of the 65-foot-high fixed bridge, take a short glance to your right into the Florida Bay for a preview of the beauty you are about to experience.

If you are coming by car, you’ll enter the Keys in Key Largo, the second largest city in the island chain.  It includes Ocean Reef, an exclusive private club community in north Key Largo with 2 championship 18-hole golf courses and its own private airport, containing homes owned by some of America’s most rich and famous. But unless you know one of the “Reefers”, or have an appointment with a Reef real estate agent, stay to the right once you cross the bridge, there are treasures enough for everyone all along the 110-mile highway that leads to Key West.

Several domestic airlines provide direct flights from many eastern and mid-west cities to Key West International Airport.  Although at this time there are no scheduled airlines servicing Marathon International Airport, it is well located in the middle of the Keys and is an active hub for private aviation and charter services.  Both airports have U.S. Customs and Border facilities available.

The Key West Express is a 4-hour daily passenger ferry service operating between Key West, Marco Island and Fort Myer’s beach. Of course, if you have your own boat, your options are practically limitless. So, it could be worse.

Who Lives in The Florida Keys and How Many Are There?

According to the 2020 census data, the Florida Keys has a diverse population of 82,847, a 13% increase from 2010.  By race, 72.6% (60,153) are white, including 23.5% (19,432) Hispanics who are counted as white, 5.8% (4,807) Black or African American, 15.1% (12,477) identifying as 2 or more races, and 6.5% (5,410) Asian or other.  Men slightly outnumber woman, and I will spare you the “How do you tell a Keys man/women?” jokes.

Many residents of the Keys have second homes elsewhere, living here seasonally, mostly in the winter, lovingly referred to by us full-timers as “snowbirds.”  The Keys have many condominium communities, popular with these part-year residents, some renting them to vacationers when they are not here.  There are a large number of mainland residents who own weekend or holiday homes in the Keys, and it is a Miami bedroom community for a few, mainly living in the Upper Keys, it being a popular location with airline employees having Miami International as their base.  But for most of us, this is just plain home, and except for an occasional visit “off the rock,” you’ll find us here most of the time, unless we’re on the water.

Key West, with about 30% of the chains population, is know for its welcoming melting-pot diversity and activism, and is the host to Fantasy Fest , a 10-day annual grown-up party with a wild and liberating extravaganza of costuming, parades, events and excitement, definitely not for the “faint of heart”, or those who might take offense.

Florida Keys State of Mind

The Florida Keys is a small but delightful corner of the world, far from the pace of big city life, made for people who enjoy the water and water activities, being close to nature and love having a good time, harboring a “go with the flow” mentality.  Most say we are a friendly, diverse and welcoming group, the Keys holding a magnetism for many from decedents of founding families, generational habitants, and those of us who came for a while, got stuck in paradise, and never left.  Getting stuck in paradise, it could be worse.